Earl Ofari Hutchinson
It’s true that nearly all polls show that presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden consistently beats Trump both nationally and in the must win swing states. It’s true that these polls consistently showed Biden beating Trump before and after he announced he was entering the race.
But it’s also true that polls have shown in past elections Democrats decisively beating Republican presidential opponents sometimes handily months before the election. Then only to lose on Election Day. Three immediately come to mind. In 1980, Jimmy Carter in most early polls had a lead over Reagan. In 1988, George Dukakis had a commanding lead in some polls over George Bush Sr. In 2016, in some polls, Hillary Clinton had a big lead over Trump.
In 2000, though polls showed George W. Bush and Al Gore in a virtual dead heat a couple of months before the election, polls showed Gore making the biggest gains in the poll ratings just before the election. The rest is of course history. In all four races, the GOP contender won. The polls were dead wrong and proved meaningless.
There is one difference this go round that is cause for if not uncorking the champagne about Biden, at least cause for cautious hope even joy at a November victory. That’s that the Biden’s poll leading numbers have never varied. The COVID crisis has caused Trump’s approval ratings to be more down than up. The other added powerful Trump negative is that his ace card of selling the supposed Trump economic miracle has evaporated with no realistic hope of a quick turnaround before November.
Still, there are ominous warnings buried in the polls. One is that the Biden’s lead numbers are still within the margin of error. With months to go before November, his numbers could and likely will change. There are two other unknowns that could bump the poll numbers up or down for either Biden or Trump. They are the Tara Reade sexual allegations against Biden. So far, they have gotten no traction among Democrats.
However, they have had some resonance among independents. A significant number of them say the Reade allegation is troubling and has colored how they regard Biden. It does absolutely no good to shout what about Trump and his serial sexual abuse of women? The standard with him and his reputation is and has always been rock bottom. As the 2016 election result showed his sexual rogue perversities meant nothing to the millions that backed him. There’s absolutely no evidence that they will make a difference to them in 2020 either. Meanwhile, Biden, the Catholic, family man, and staid Democratic politician and the Democrats are held to a far different standard than Trump. The party is the near surrogate #metoo party, and they must take a loud stand against even the faintest whiff of sexual misconduct.
The other is the economy. No sitting president has ever lost when the economy is actually or perceived to be booming. COVID has knocked that out the box for now. The unknown is whether it will stay that way for Trump. If there is a significant rebound, Trump will crow it up and claim it as his victory.
There’s yet still another intangible. That’s Bernie Sanders. No, not Sanders himself. He has said every way it can be said that he’ll do anything to get Trump out of the White House. This means working hard for Biden’s election. However, Sander’s rabid hard-core backers have virtually turned assailing Biden into a growth industry on social media. They are another matter. No one knows how many of them there are, where they are, and how serious they are about making mischief for Biden at the polls. But they’ll almost certainly keep up the drumbeat attacks on him online. Trump, the GOP and Fox News will do everything humanly possible to play up any dirt they can dig up on Biden and put a Sander Bros stamp on it.
There’s also some concern about Biden’s past forays into the presidential arena. They have been utter disasters. He did not translate his earthy appeal into any substantial support from a broad segment of voters in 1988, and 2008. In 1988 he was dogged by accusations of plagiarism and fabrication in his speeches and self-aggrandizing references to his past. He soon dropped out of the race. In 2008 he did even worse and didn’t get a single percentage point in the first out the box Democratic presidential Iowa caucus balloting. Again, he quickly dropped out the race.
The other intangible is age. Biden will turn 78 two weeks after Election Day 2020. This would make him by far the oldest in-coming president in US history.
So, polls are important. And there will loads more of them before November. The best that can be said about any of them is that they tell who seemingly is ahead at the time they are taken and headlined. They don’t tell who will win. No one should uncork the champagne yet.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of Biden Versus Trump: Who Will Win (Amazon) He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network